Haggai 2:5-The Lord Reassures the Remnant of Judah of the Presence of His Spirit Among Them and Commands Them Not to Fear
Haggai 2:1 On the twenty-first day of the seventh month, the Lord spoke again through the prophet Haggai: 2 “Ask the following questions to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, the high priest Joshua son of Jehozadak, and the remnant of the people: 3 ‘Who among you survivors saw the former splendor of this temple? How does it look to you now? Isn’t it nothing by comparison? 4 Even so, take heart, Zerubbabel,’ says the Lord. ‘Take heart, Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and all you citizens of the land,’ says the Lord, ‘and begin to work. For I am with you,’ says the Lord who rules over all. 5 Do not fear, because I made a promise to your ancestors when they left Egypt, and my spirit even now testifies to you.’” (NET)
Haggai 2:5, the Lord elaborates on His promise recorded in Haggai 2:4 to be in the presence of the citizens of the remnant of the kingdom of Judah while they completed the work of rebuilding the Lord’s temple in Jerusalem.
Verse 5 begins with a relative pronoun clause which asserts that the Lord’s promise to the remnant of Judah to be with them corresponds to His promise to the Exodus generation when they departed Egypt.
The Lord’s promise to the Exodus generation to be in their presence is recorded in Exodus 33:1-17.
Exodus 33:1 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, “Depart, go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up from the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your descendants I will give it.’ 2 I will send an angel before you and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite. 3 Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, because you are an obstinate people, and I might destroy you on the way.” 4 When the people heard this sad word, they went into mourning, and none of them put on his ornaments. 5 For the Lord had said to Moses, “Say to the sons of Israel, ‘You are an obstinate people; should I go up in your midst for one moment, I would destroy you. Now therefore, put off your ornaments from you, that I may know what I shall do with you.’” 6 So the sons of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments, from Mount Horeb onward. 7 Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, a good distance from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting which was outside the camp. 8 And it came about, whenever Moses went out to the tent, that all the people would arise and stand, each at the entrance of his tent, and gaze after Moses until he entered the tent. 9 Whenever Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent; and the Lord would speak with Moses. 10 When all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would arise and worship, each at the entrance of his tent. 11 Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses returned to the camp, his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent. 12 Then Moses said to the Lord, “See, You say to me, ‘Bring up this people!’ But You Yourself have not let me know whom You will send with me. Moreover, You have said, ‘I have known you by name, and you have also found favor in My sight.’ 13 Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight. Consider too, that this nation is Your people.” 14 And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15 Then he said to Him, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. 16 For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?” 17 The Lord said to Moses, “I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favor in My sight and I have known you by name.” (NASB95)
At this point in the narrative of Exodus, Moses is looking for reassurance that the Lord would continue to provide His presence as they continue the journey to Canaan.
The golden calf episode had recently taken place and many of the Israelites experienced the most severe form of divine discipline, namely, the sin unto the death.
By the Lord’s own admission, the Israelites were an obstinate people who constantly rebelled against the Lord’s authority.
In verses 12-17, Moses wants reassurance that the Lord would continue to go with him and the Israelites on the way to Canaan because the Israelites were such a difficult group of people to lead.
In Exodus 33:3, the Lord told Moses He would not go up in their midst for one moment, or He would destroy them.
The prospect of not having the Lord’s presence not only upset the Israelites but also Moses since this would mean that Moses would be leading the people on his own.
The job of leading the Israelites had already proven to be extremely difficult with the Lord’s presence and would be unbearable for Moses if he had to go the rest of the way alone, thus, we have him requesting that the Lord would continue to be present with him as he led the people.
In Exodus 33:12, we have Moses making an unusual statement that the Lord had not let him know whom He will send with him when in Exodus 33:2, the Lord promised him that He would send His angel to lead Israel.
This angel was the Lord’s presence and was the preincarnate Christ and not an elect angel like Michael.
Notice that in Exodus 33:12, Moses complains that the Lord had not let him know whom He will send “with” him whereas in Exodus 33:2, the Lord promises to send His angel “before” him in order to drive out the inhabitants of the land of Canaan.
Going “before” Moses and the Israelites is a promise to lead Israel militarily whereas going “with” Moses and the Israelites contains the idea that the Lord would guide, protect and take care of the Israelites.
The Lord told Moses in Exodus 33:5 that He would not personally be in the presence of the Israelite camp as He had been prior to the golden calf episode since He might destroy the Israelites.
So we have the Lord promising to go ahead of the Israelites in order to lead them to military victory over the inhabitants of Canaan but is refusing to be dwelling in their midst as He had before the golden calf episode.
Thus in Exodus 33:12-17, we have Moses pleading with the Lord to be in their presence, i.e. in their midst as He had before the golden calf episode.
In Exodus 33:14, the Lord responds favorably to Moses’ first request by telling Moses that His presence would go with them and give him rest.
Thus, through Moses’ intercession, we have the restoration of the Lord’s promise He originally made in Exodus 3:8, 12 and 17 to personally bring the Israelites out of Egypt and into the land promised to the patriarchs.
In Exodus 33:15-16, Moses pleads with the Lord that He would personally go with him and the Israelites to the land of Canaan and he bases his appeal on God’s concern for His own glory and reputation.
Therefore, Moses is requesting the Lord’s presence in the midst of the Israelite camp as they head to Canaan in order that these heathen nations might exercise faith in the Lord.
Moses is saying that this cannot take place if the Lord is not present and he is saying that success depends on the Lord being present with Israel.
Moses is also saying in verses 15-16 that God’s presence and all which this implied, is what made Israel special and distinguished her from the rest of the nations.
Now, Nehemiah 9:20 and 30 as well as Isaiah 63:11-14 interpret Exodus 33:1-17 and assert that it was the Holy Spirit who accompanied the Exodus generation.
Notice that in Nehemiah 9:20, 30 and Isaiah 63:11-14, the Lord’s presence among the Exodus generation is interpreted as the “good/holy Spirit” who dwelt in their midst.
Now, the relative pronoun clause in Haggai 2:5 is followed by a statement which asserts that the Lord’s Spirit stood in the midst of each one of the citizens of the remnant of the kingdom of Judah while they completed rebuilding His temple in Jerusalem after they departed from their captivity in Babylon.
This statement corresponds to the Lord’s promise to the Exodus generation to be in their presence when they departed from their captivity in Egypt.
So therefore, the Lord’s first two assertions in Haggai 2:5 are drawing on the golden calf rebellion and aftermath which are recorded in Exodus 32-34.
These two assertions in Haggai 2:5 are designed to encourage the remnant of Judah by reminding them that His promise to have His Spirit dwell in their midst corresponds to the same promise He made to the Exodus generation after the golden calf rebellion.
The Lord promised the Exodus generation that His Spirit would dwell in their midst despite the fact that they rebelled against Him by worshipping the golden calf.
In the same way, the Lord promised the remnant of Judah that His Spirit would dwell in their midst despite the fact that they rebelled against Him by committing idolatry as well which resulted in their deportation to Babylon for seventy years.
Haggai 2:5 comes to an end with the Lord solemnly issuing the citizens of the remnant of the kingdom of Judah a prohibition, which required that the citizens of the remnant of the kingdom of Judah not enter into the state of fear as they completed the work of rebuilding the Lord’s temple in Jerusalem.
A comparison of Haggai 2:4 with 2:5 makes clear that the citizens of the remnant of the kingdom of Judah must not be afraid of anyone or anything while they completed the work of rebuilding the Lord’s temple in Jerusalem since He was in their presence to protect them and give them success in this task.
This remnant’s greatest fear were the nations which surrounded them, however, the Lord in Haggai 2:6-7 asserts that He will judge these nations, thus, this remnant need not fear these nations because the Lord will intervene on their behalf by judging these nations.
Haggai 2:6 Moreover, the Lord who rules over all says: ‘In just a little while I will once again shake the sky and the earth, the sea and the dry ground. 7 I will also shake up all the nations, and they will offer their treasures; then I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the Lord who rules over all. (NET)